Novembre Frost

57 degrees F

Sunny, 19 mph NW wind

Bluff in the American Bottomland

November’s arrival brings the first hard frosts of autumn, settling along the bluffs and bottomland of the Illinois country. The varied warm colors of fall are now muted, the slightest breath of wind cause the forest leaves to drift to the ground, like a robe discarded. Time to prepare for the winter ahead, the cold and wind will soon overtake our daily concerns.  Garden vegetation is now brown and shriveled; the frost leaves its mark on whatever it touches. Remaining growth in the jardin is slowed to all but the hardiest of plants. Turnips, black radishes, and bush peas cling to life alongside many of the herbs as the garden season comes to a close. Autumn’s crop was very meager as the late summer heat and drought played havoc with the fall plantings. The rain and cooler temperatures arrived too late to provide meaningful relief to the struggling vegetation. It is time to clear the beds of the remaining debris while amending and replenishing the soil before the onset of winter. White and purple globe top turnips and the early blood beets cling to life, growing ever so slowly until the inevitable freezing cold temperatures will also bring their season to an end.

Our attention shifts from preparation to subsistence, an adjustment that the residents and travelers through this country have long recognized as accompanying the changing weather. Jean-Bernard Bossu on the eve of his 1751 journey wrote, “We are planning to set out for Illinois territory at the beginning of November. Since it is late in the season and we still have three hundred leagues to go, we run the risk of being stopped by the snow and of having to spend the winter in route. We have to stay here for a while until we can prepare enough biscuits for a trip made long by the currents and the north winds which we will have to buck at this time of year.” *

Hundreds of years have passed since the writing of this letter and the dangers of winter are as real now as they were then. We now have modern conveniences to help sustain us in the cold months ahead, but it still remains prudent to heed the pulse and pace of the season. The approach of winter with its cares and concerns also heralds the upcoming holidays and their celebrations. Their activity will brighten our shortest days with the warmth and conviviality of those we welcome and hold dear. Family and friends will gather on Friday afternoon, November 29th through mid-afternoon, Sunday, December 1st ,  as l’habitants and local Milice will be in residence at Fort de Chartres in honor of the fall and winter celebrations. A turkey will be roasted in the hearth along with other dishes of the 18th century while breads and desserts will be baked in the stone bake oven.  Participants will engage in a number of out-door activities including informal shooting contests, testing the skills of the local Milice. Visitors are warmly welcomed to join us in our annual celebration! And if our paths do not cross over the next few months, enjoy the winter celebrations and dream of the bounty held within the promise of the New Year.

Announcement: The Winter Rendezvous heralded the arrival of a new publication showcasing three friends explorations into the domestic cookery of the Illinois country, Recettes, Receipts, Recipes, Culinary Arts of the Illinois Country. The Fort de Chartres jardin potager and bake oven have long been the muse for my friends Antoinette Hancock, Renea Davis, and myself. We have begun a journey recording our culinary research and published an autumn edition booklet, the first of four seasonal publications. We thank all of those who stopped by our bake oven demonstration at the Winter Rendezvous and purchased a copy of this first edition. This publication is now available for purchase online through Dave Horne’s Fort de Chartres Store website . We appreciate this opportunity and hope you will support our efforts!

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